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DoD News Briefing, Thursday, June 11, 1998

Presenters: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)
June 11, 1998 2:00 PM EDT

Mr. Bacon: Good afternoon. Sorry I'm late. Welcome to our representatives from Europe and elsewhere here. Welcome back.

Let me start with a brief announcement designed to clear up confusion. The confusion is over Dr. Hamre's participation in events at the Women's Memorial and the ceremony tomorrow to mark the 50th anniversary of women in the armed services.

First, he is speaking this afternoon at 5:50 at the Women's Memorial. It is part of a ceremony to present an award to former Secretary Perry, and the award will be presented at 6 p.m. by Hillary Rodham Clinton, the First Lady.

But, Secretary Perry won't be there. The award will be presented to his wife, Lee Perry. This is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the full integration of women into the armed services.

Second, tomorrow at 2 p.m., at the Women in Military Service Memorial in Arlington National Cemetery, Dr. Hamre, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, will be the keynote speaker at a ceremony also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Women's Armed Services Integration Act of 1948.

So that's clear. I'll take your questions.

Q: In the Energy Department, they released the latest in a series of films on -- historical films, I guess, on nuclear tests, and I believe, unless I'm mistaken, that it includes films of tests in space in the '60s. Have you anything on that?

A: I think you're talking about the little-known historical nuclear weapons test film festival which began yesterday under the auspices of the Department of Energy.

All I can tell you is that this historical nuclear weapons test film festival does, in fact, include some film of atmospheric tests of nuclear weapons that were conducted about 25 years ago. The last -- no, 35 years ago. We have not conducted any atmospheric tests since the early 1960s.

So they do have some tests of atmospheric -- some film of atmospheric tests that took place in 1962 and perhaps 1963.

Q: But there's nothing new about that.

A: No. This is basically a declassification exercise of films that were taken of nuclear tests.

Q: And -- correct me if I'm wrong -- these are not tests in space; these are simply atmospheric tests?

A: They are upper atmospheric. They are not in space. We believe that they were done totally within the atmosphere. But you should talk to the Department of Energy about this. They're the experts.

It turns out that all of our nuclear experts are now in Brussels, so they're not available to talk about this. The right experts are at energy.

Q: Regarding the NATO exercise, air power exercise coming up, do you have any details at all on when, the scope, what U.S. forces will participate?

A: No. Those details haven't been worked out yet. Let me explain to you what happened. Today, the NATO defense ministers instructed the NATO military authorities to conduct an exercise, an air power exercise in Albania and Macedonia.

They have left the details of that up to NATO military planners. So NATO military planners at Allied Forces South in Naples and Air South -- it's called Allied Forces South, Air Division -- in Italy, in Vincenzia, will start, or have started this planning probably today. It will probably take them a day or two to complete the plans, and I would anticipate that the exercise would happen very quickly.

But basic questions, such as exactly what the exercise will involve, which countries will participate, and which forces those participants will devote to the exercise haven't been worked out, nor has the length of the exercise or the specific details of it.

We do not have a carrier in the Mediterranean right now. One, the Eisenhower, left yesterday, and it will take her about two weeks to get into the Mediterranean.

We do have an Amphibious Ready Group, the WASP, about a day away from this area. I think this Amphibious Ready Group is now at a port call in Turkey. The WASP has five Harriers on it and about 20 helicopters that could participate in this exercise.

Of course, other nations have carriers. The British, the French, and the Italians have carriers. I don't know the disposition of those carriers right now.

We have, at Aviano, two squadrons of F-16s, Cs and Ds, about 18, I think there are 18 aircraft per squadron, that are part of the 31st Fighter Wing. I would anticipate that they would participate in this exercise, but those details have not been worked out yet. They will be done relatively soon.

Q: Did you say, I'm sorry, the amphibious ready group could or would or is likely to go along with the planes in Aviano?

A: I didn't say that it would. I just said that it's in the area; that the WASP does have some Harriers on board that theoretically would be able to participate.

I was basically just listing U.S. military assets nearby that would be available for participating in this exercise. I'm not saying they will be selected to participate. But they would certainly be available to participate in the exercise.

Q: What is the message that this exercise is intended to convey?

A: I think the message is very clear, and it is directed entirely at President Milosevic. And that is that NATO is able and willing, if necessary, to use air power in this area. The exercise will show that we're ready, that we are positioned, and that we're willing to move if we have to.

Q: Is this a dress rehearsal for air strikes?

A: It is decidedly not a rehearsal for air strikes. It is an exercise of a multi-lateral NATO air force in the area. It is not a rehearsal for anything.

As you know, today also, the defense ministers in Brussels instructed the military authorities to accelerate planning on a wide range of possible military options that could be used to back diplomacy in Kosovo, and it should be very clear that we see the military options being planned as a way to strengthen the hand of diplomats trying to work for a cease-fire and for a political settlement in Kosovo.

We hope that military options won't have to be used, that diplomacy will prevail. But if that doesn't work, the planners will have developed a list of options and then the political authorities in each one of the countries will have to decide whether they think these options are acceptable and whether they're the right course to take to back up diplomacy.

Q: But when you say that this exercise will show that NATO is able and willing to act, isn't that an implicit threat to them, sir?

A: Well, I think it's an exercise being conducted while planners are looking at military options that might be necessary or desirable to enforce diplomatic options.

Q: Will this be a live fire exercise -- live bombing?

AOh, that's -- those are among the details that have to be worked out and NATO planners will be doing that very soon, I would expect.

Q: Is it -- can we assume that this list of options would include possible air strikes?

A: Well, Secretary General Solana said that they would include the possible use of air power over Kosovo.

Q: What about the deployment of NATO ground troops, including US troops?

A: Well, I think that it's premature to talk about that now. They're -- the planners are coming up with a list of options. Once the list of options is presented to NATO, it will be up to the political leadership of each country to decide whether the options are acceptable, and if they are, what their degree of participation will be.

We're a long way from that right now. I would -- well, I won't say a long way. I would anticipate that the planning would be done relatively soon -- could be done early, it could be done next week sometime. But there will have to be a second round of discussions after the options are presented as to how to proceed, which options to pick and which ones not to pick.

Q: Generally, does United States -- is the United States opposed to the appointment of US troops to Kosovo?

A: I think we want to see, right now, how well diplomacy succeeds and we want to see what sort of options the NATO planners come up with.

Q: Do we expect that the exercise would include any parachuting of equipment or ground troops as part of the exercise dropping in?

A: I think that's unlikely, but the NATO planners will be coming up with the details of the exercise. They haven't done that yet, so it's premature to talk specifically about what the exercises will involve, but my guess is that that's not one of the things they're looking at.

They're looking at reconnaissance, surveillance, possibly the delivery of humanitarian goods, and ways that air power could be used in that area. Those are among the issues.

Q: For this particular exercise in Albania, how do you plan to use your forces and bases in Greece and Turkey?

A: Well I think, again, that's the type of issue that's being worked out by the planners. As I've said, we have -- we, the United States -- have forces in Aviano, ready air forces there and also we have the WASP in the area. But the planners will have to decide: one, what the exercise is going to be; two, how large it's going to be; three, how many countries will participate, and; four, what the contribution of each country will be. And that's what they'll be working on over the next hours and days.

Q: Macedonia or FYROM?

A: I'm sorry.

Q: Did you say Macedonia or FYROM?

A: Well, as we've discussed many times before, I use Macedonia as an abbreviation for the Former Republic of -- Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. And my stumbling over that long name explains why I use Macedonia as an abbreviation.

Q: You lost me on one point. When you were talking about reconnaissance, surveillance, delivering humanitarian goods and use of air power, you just lost me. Were you talking about the upcoming air power exercise --

A: I'm talking about exercises. I'm talking about the exercise.

Q: The exercise. So that would be some of the missions that you would want -- that the exercise would --

A: Those are possible missions that may be part of the exercise. There could be more. Those are just illustrative.

Q: And when you said "the ways in which air powers could be used," did you mean that that possible mission involves dropping of ordnance?

A: It could, but that hasn't been decided. Those are the issues that are being worked out by NATO planners now.

Q: You think that the planners will decide what countries take part in this. Can we assume that the United States definitely will take part?

A: Well, I think that's a very valid assumption, but as I say, until the details are worked out and there's a firm plan, it's probably premature to talk about specifics.

Q: And, I just hope, you know, when you say that this is to demonstrate to Milosevic that NATO can exercise air power in the region, wouldn't he already know that?

A: Well, maybe he's forgotten. And maybe he's forgotten that NATO has shown a willingness to use effective air power in the past. So this will be a reminder.

Q: Would NATO consider use of air power against the rebels since the rebels are, on occasion, the aggressor?

A: Well, that's a very interesting point. It's very clear that the defense ministers are concerned about provocative acts on both sides, both by the Kosovar Albanians and also by the Serb police and military forces in Kosovo.

There is not going to be a settlement here, there is not going to be a cease-fire, unless both sides agree to it. And one of the things that was discussed was ways that we can -- the diplomatic and military actions that can be found that impose restraint on both sides of the controversy.

Q: Some people who are looking at the situation are applying the so-called Bosnia model to this; that is, the air strikes that are generally agreed to have helped bring the Bosnian Serbs to the peace table at Dayton. Isn't this situation somewhat different from the situation that they faced in Bosnia when air strikes were employed?

A: Well, yeah, there are factual and legal differences here. The President alluded to those yesterday. And if you read the NATO statement that was issued in Brussels today, they talk in several places about taking legally acceptable or relevant actions.

And I think it's very clear that the diplomats and the military authorities will do what they can to recognize these differences.

Q: Would they require a U.N. resolution in order for NATO to take military action in Serbia?

A: No, it's not our view -- it's not the view of the United States -- that a U.N. action is required.

Q: What's the view of other NATO countries?

A: Well, you'll have to ask them. But clearly, the United States believes that NATO has the right to protect stability in Europe without a U.N. action. A U.N. action would be obviously, as always, a good thing to have because it shows that other nations share NATO's concern. But it is the U.S. view that NATO can act on its own.

Q: Do you think that Milosevic's military forces could, in this exercise or further down the road, threaten U.S. or NATO air forces? And do you see any need to place forces with any kind of air defense protection or any of that sort of thing?

A: Well, to the extent that -- first of all, I would not anticipate that air defenses would be a problem for this exercise because the exercise won't be in Kosovo. It will be in Albania and Macedonia. And we would only carry out the exercise there if those countries agreed to do it. I suspect they will because they've appealed, actually, for more international support and involvement.

Beyond that, if the NATO military authorities recommend the use of air power over Kosovo -- and if the governments agree that that's the right way to go, I think that every country -- every country that participates in any air action over Kosovo would be very aware of the air defense environment and the threats that they would face.

And as you know, we took extraordinary measures in Bosnia to protect our planes and our pilots. And I think we would do exactly the same thing over Kosovo, which is part of Serbia.

Q: Can I ask [I asked], on Tuesday, if the United States was using UAVs over Kosovo -- and I thought you agreed to take the question. Apparently you didn't.

A: Did I agree to take the question?

Q: I --

A: So now you want me to take it?

Q: I think -- I think you did.

A: All right.

Q: Is the United States using UAVs over Kosovo?

A: I'll take the question.

Q: Because you had said before, I believe, that there was a problem in getting reconnaissance because they were not allowing observers.

A: I said that they were not allowing observers on the ground. Since then, they have agreed to allow OSCE and other observers in. I don't know how many are in, but they have changed the policy and they've allowed some diplomatic observers to go in.

My understanding was that they were supposed to allow press people to go in with the diplomats, but I haven't seen reports that that's happened.

Q: And if you'd take the question, I'd appreciate it.

A: I will.

Q: Three Greek deputies, members of the committee on defense of the Greek parliament are here today at the Pentagon for meetings and presentations with DoD officials. Do you have anything on that?

A: Well, you probably know more about this meeting than I do, but you're right. There are three Greek Parliamentarians visiting the Pentagon today as a part of our continuing series of meetings with Greece, a NATO ally. They're meeting with John Barry, who is the Director of European Policy, and they're talking about a range of defense issues.

Q: The other day the Greek Under Secretary, Mr. Apostolakis was here for talks, too, with a DoD official. May we have a readout on that?

A: A readout?

Q: Yes. Do you know anything...

A: The meeting was held in Williamsburg at the end of May, I believe. He met principally with Jan Lodal, the Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. There, again, we talked about a wide range of shared defense and security issues.

Q: I was told that the officials were very interested about his remarks on the status (inaudible) of the Aegean, and may we know the reason for this satisfaction?

A: Well, one of the things that we've been satisfied with recently is the statements by Greece and Turkey that they will accept the confidence-building measures that have been proposed by, or engineered by, the Secretary General of NATO, Mr. Solana. And we understand that both Greece and Turkey have said that they plan to implement these confidence-building measures. And that is very pleasing to us and I think it is also a step towards stability in the Aegean.

Q: But seeing these arrangements, this partition in the areas of the peninsula responsibilities in the air space and in the sea over the Aegean with exception, of course, for the time being over the Greek Island, (inaudible). I am wondering how this new arrangement affects your military presence in the Aegean Sea area from the bilateral point of view.

A: I'm not positive that partition is the right characterization for the confidence-building measures as I understand them. I would have to, before accepting that term, maybe re-read the confidence-building measures.

But having said that, I doubt if there will be a major impact on the U.S. force deployments in the Aegean, but I would be glad to check that and get back to you.

QSince Under Secretary Lodal played a very crucial role with those talks in Brussels for this arrangement, it's possible to have a special briefing so we can see the technicalities of this agreement?

A: I'm sorry. A special briefing on the confidence-building measures?

Q: With Mr. Lodal?

A: It might be more appropriate for Mr. Solana to do that because he's the father of these confidence-building measures and, it seems to me, that he should get the full credit and the full opportunity to brief the Greek and Turkish press on the import of these measures.

Q: Another topic. Operation TAILWIND. Can you just tell us if the Pentagon has made any progress in finding any key evidence that would either confirm or refute CNN's report of last Sunday night?

A: Several days ago, the Secretary of Defense -- in fact, on Tuesday, just two days ago -- the Secretary of Defense formally asked the Secretary of the Air Force, the Secretary of the Army and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs to conduct investigations into the report and to get back to him in 30 days. So they have now had two out of 30 days to do this.

I am not aware that there is any new information that has come out on this. Well, certainly, I am not aware of any information that has come out to support the charges that -- or the assertion that -- sarin gas was used by U.S. forces on U.S. forces in Laos in September of 1970.

But I think we need to let the process work. The investigation was requested. The review was requested by the Secretary so we could get to the bottom of this quickly and efficiently, and we've got 28 days to go.

Q: Will you at any point release the -- some sort of -- give us some sort of idea of how many people are working on this and how many hours they're spending so that we've got some of confidence that this was, in fact, a thorough investigation and review?

A: I think that it's premature to make that -- at the end we will tell you, yes. Our goal here is to produce reports in which everyone can have confidence, and we will do what we need to do to make sure that the public does have confidence in our findings.

Q: Now, you said that they were supposed to get back in about 30 days. Do you anticipate that the declassification process for some of the documents will be done by then, or will that be a process that takes longer than 30 days?

A: I think the declassification process is largely complete, and I would hope that documents will be available soon. Some may be available as early as today. But there will be certainly other documents available before the end of the 30-day review period.

This just in. No UAVs over Kosovo. We took the question and we answered it. This is rare.

Q: I realize you said you didn't want to make incremental reports, but have you anything new to offer on the Tomb of the Unknowns? How is it progressing?

A: I believe that we got a very good DNA sample from the remains, and now the next step is to begin matching. I don't know how long that's going to take. But so far the two parts of the examination have gone extremely well and, as you know, there's first looking at the remains, measuring them, testing them in various ways, and then taking a sample from the remains. That's sort of an anthropological part of the investigation.

And then the laboratory part of the investigation which involves getting a sample from the remains, and I believe we did get a good sample, which puts us in a good position now to start matching. And I don't know how long that will take. We will obviously, as soon as we complete that phase, if we can complete it, get back to you and give you a full report.

Q: Two questions on that. If you got the good samples, that would give you more confidence that you can make an identification. And have members of each of the nine families agreed to provide matching information?

A: I'm not sure that representatives from all nine families have agreed. I think we may have agreement from most, but I'll have to double-check. The last I checked, I think we had agreement from seven or eight.

It's unclear, of course, whether it's necessary to have matches from all nine families. That's one of the things we'll decide as we go through this process.

Q: Does getting a good sample give you more confidence that you will be able to...

A: Certainly, yes, it does give us more confidence, but it doesn't give us 100 percent confidence. And as the experts explained here before the exhumation took place, this is a complex process, and it has many elements to it. But certainly crucial to a competent identification is a good DNA match.

Q: Did the other two families refuse to give --

A: I don't know. I'll just have to check on this. And you remember this is a process, and they may -- any family could change its mind one way or the other.

In general, I want to say the families have been extremely cooperative and extremely understanding. But I can't speak for the whole universe of the nine families, and we'll try to get back to you on that.

Q: When you say that it might not be necessary, are you implying that there might be a process where they would, for instance, try the most likely matches first and work their way through? In other words, you might not get samples from everybody?

A: I'm suggesting that if there were -- I think everybody at the beginning of this process, and certainly based on the briefings, the many briefings you got here, people have focused on a very small number of candidates as the leading candidates for a match. And so I think our goal would be to start with the most likely matches, and if that -- if we get something, then we'll verify that as best we can.

But these are technical details that maybe I should get one of the doctors or the experts back to talk about, one of the DNA matching people.

Q: Have the leading candidates, meaning the leading two candidates families, the leading two candidates, agreed to test, matching test?

A: Sorry?

Q: Have the families of the leading two candidates --

A: Yes, they have. There's another bulletin in. Seven out of nine families have agreed, one has refused, and in one there is no maternal linear descendant from whom to get a match. Remember, this mitochondrial DNA matching requires a sample from somebody in the maternal line. So there are now eight possible matches that we can get, but one family has said no. [CORRECTION: All eight families have provided samples. There is no maternal descendent in the ninth (last) family.]

Q: Including the two outstanding candidates, at least highly publicized candidates?

A: The two -- the two considered to be the most likely candidates, those families have both agreed.

Q: And just one other question, has there been any decision made about if identification is made about whether to put any other remains in the Tomb of the Unknowns?

A: That hasn't been decided yet. One of the big issues here -- and that won't be decided [until] after considerable consultations with families and veterans groups and Congress and others. One of the issues we face here is whether we've reached a point in science where we might have to assume that if not today, but sometime in the relatively near future we would be able, perhaps, to identify almost all remains from the recent past.

I don't know whether we've reached that conclusion yet. But that's the type of question that will have to be asked -- it's not just a scientific question. It's a public policy question. And we'll try to discuss that as openly as we discuss the steps that brought us this far.

Q: On new subject? Very brief. Has the Pentagon been asked to aid in the evacuation or protection of American and third country nationals in Guinea-Bissau?

A: My understanding right now is that the Portuguese have a freighter docked at Bissau ready to remove Portuguese nationals, Americans, and as many people as they can fit on. I understand it has a fairly large capacity to take people out.

The United States has sent some planes -- I believe two or three C-130s -- to Dakar, Senegal, which is nearby. And we also have, I think, about 100 people there, so called enablers -- communicators, planners, a headquarters element, security people -- ready to go in and aid Americans if they want to get out.

The problem is the planes can't get in to Guinea-Bissau because the airport is closed. So right now the ship seems to be the best way to get out. And there are about 70 Americans, we believe, in the country. There could be more. But our records show there are about 70 -- about half of them are Peace Corps volunteers. About half of the Peace Corps volunteers are scattered around the country, outside of the capital. And we don't think that they're at any risk. The risk seems to be in the capital right now.

We believe that a very small embassy detachment -- five or six people -- is likely to stay, but that many Americans in the capital will come out. And I think this is ongoing right now. I know the ship is at the dock and there are 44 people -- at last report -- 44 Americans at the dock waiting to get on the ship and leave.

Q: Mr. Bacon, one clarification. Since you said that the (inaudible) arrangement over the Aegean Sea is not partition of the areas -- or for operational responsibilities of the air space in the sea, from the US point of view, do you consider the entire area of the Aegean Sea controlled by Greece as in the past?

A: What I said was that I didn't accept your definition -- your description -- because I have to look at the details of the confidence-building measures. So I think I would like to go back and look again at the confidence-building measures.

Q: What is your reaction to reports that North Korea's No Dong missile is operational?

A: Well, we've been watching the development of these missiles very closely. We think that the development is complete. I don't think we're in a position right now to comment on whether they're deployed or operational. But we know that the development -- we believe that the development of the missiles is complete.

We've also stated very clearly on many occasions -- and I'll restate -- that proliferation of new missiles in the Asia-Pacific region is destabilizing -- potentially destabilizing. And we don't think that it's a good idea for North Korea today to be deploying new missiles. Clearly, North Korea needs to focus on feeding and clothing and caring for its people. And this doesn't seem to be the best way to do that.

Q: What was the range of the No Dong?

A: The No Dong missile has a range of about 1,000 kilometers, we believe.

Q: What kind of a statement do you say that the development is complete?

A: Sorry?

Q: Based on what kind of a state of proof do you say that development is complete?

A: National technical data that we have assembled through our normal practices.

Q: How long has it been complete?

A: I can't give you details on that.